A US judge has ordered the military to stop force-feeding a hunger-striking prisoner at Guantanamo Bay naval base.
The temporary order, issued on Friday by Judge Gladys Kessler, means that staff cannot feed Syrian prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab until a hearing next Wednesday.
“While the department follows the law and only applies enteral feeding in order to preserve life, we will, of course, comply with the judge’s order here,” said Todd Breasseale, a defence department spokesman.
Kessler also ordered the US military to stop taking Dhiab out his cell if he refused to go to feedings and said the government had to keep all videotape evidence of forcible cell removal and force-feeding until the hearing.
It is the first time a judge has ordered an end to force-feeding of a prisoner in Guantanamo.
Last year about 46 of 166 prisoners were force-fed at least some of their meals while they were on a hunger strike and several sued, the Reuters news agency reported.
Cori Crider, one of Dhiab’s lawyers and the strategic director at the UK-based campaign group Reprieve, said: “Despite Gitmo’s media blackout on information about force-feeding and brutal ‘forcible cell extractions’, we’ve managed to get some key information out.
“Everything we’ve learned is highly disturbing. JTF-GTMO also has a history of losing inconvenient evidence, including similar tapes of the Gitmo riot squad, so let’s hope that these recordings don’t go the way of the waterboarding tapes before them.”
Reprieve has accused the US government of “strongly resisting efforts” to secure a court order preserving the videos.
Force-feeding is designed to keep hunger strikers alive and involves feeding them liquid meals via tubes inserted into their noses and down into their stomachs.
Dhiab, 42, has been held at Guantanamo without charge since August 2002.